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Testimony of the Real Estate Board of New York Before the Board of Standards and Appeals in Opposition to Calendar No. 2017-285-A, 200 Amsterdam Avenue
March 27, 2018
Regarding an application pursuant to section 666.7(a) of the New York City Charter to revoke building permit No. 122887224-01-NB (the permit) issued by the New York City Department of Buildings
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is strongly opposed to the application before the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) that would reverse the previously issued building permit for a new development on property located at 200 Amsterdam (Block 1158, Lot 133) in the Upper West Side, Borough of Manhattan.
The City’s as-of-right framework embodied in its Zoning Resolution is meant to encourage predictability in an industry where financing needs predictability especially when market conditions can be so unpredictable. While it is appropriate to allow a forum for disagreement, it would be highly inappropriate for the BSA or any city agency to overturn 40 years of consistent interpretation and applicability of the definition of the zoning lot, and in turn the practice of site assembly and as-of-right development, to stem the frustration and consternation over a particular project in a particular neighborhood.
In the current case before the BSA regarding the zoning lot for 200 Amsterdam, it important to note that the building permit was only granted after an exhaustive Department of Buildings (DOB) review. That review began in September of 2016 and was followed by a subsequent rigorous audit. It was only then that the DOB issued a building permit in September 2017 permitting 200 Amsterdam to move forward as-of right, rejecting a challenge through its own appeals process that the composition of its zoning lot was improper.
DOB’s decision was based on its recognition that it had for almost 40 years consistently interpreted the Zoning Resolution in a way that permitted the kind of zoning lot on which 200 Amsterdam is based. This interpretation was reflected in a definitive Departmental Memorandum, at least 15 permanent Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) approvals, including for three already completed buildings located at 170 Amsterdam Avenue, 180 Amsterdam Avenue, and 200 West End Avenue with essentially the same zoning and on the same block, and the acceptance of this view by the City Planning Commission, the Board of Estimate and the City Council. Current ownership (SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan) was aware of and relied on the Department’s long standing zoning interpretation and its practices when it purchased the 200 Amsterdam property, with its development rights having been assembled by previous ownership.
Real property taxes have been the cornerstone of our City’s budget—funding police officers, firefighters, and public school teachers. This tax has seen enormous and beneficial growth as a result of new development throughout the city. This beneficial new development is possible as a result of our as-of-right zoning framework. It is this framework which has attracted builders, investors and lenders to fund new housing to serve our city’s growing population. The pursuit of this frivolous claim after thorough and time consuming review is an attempt to undermine the as-of-right framework of our zoning resolution, jeopardizes new development and ultimately will undermine the growth of the city’s tax base.
The interpretation of our zoning laws should be objective and rational and not be subject to political whim or subjective criteria advanced by community groups who simply don’t like the results of a lawfully approved project. The current BSA claim is based on a faulty interpretation of the Zoning Resolution’s definition of “zoning lot.” It is without merit and should be dismissed expeditiously and thwart further efforts to use this forum as a way to stop projects communities don’t like.